Meaning of Old Golf Handicap Term 'Receiving a Half'

In older golf books and periodicals, one sometimes runs across accounts of matches in which one golfer is said to have "received a half." What does that mean? It's an old golf handicapping term that we're going to explain.

"Receiving a half" meant that the golfer on the receiving end (the weaker golfer in the match) was getting a half-stroke per hole. Those half-strokes, over 18 holes, added up to 9 strokes. So the weaker golfer in the match was getting nine handicap strokes over the course of 18 holes.

The stronger golfer in the match was said to be "giving the half" or "conceding a half."

How were those nine handicap strokes employed during the match? Keep in mind that the reason this expression existed — it was use from the late 1800s — was that official handicapping systems, such as the USGA Handicap System or the CONGU Handicap System — did not exist. Today, we have the World Handicap System. These systems set down the rules for determining golfers' handicaps, and how to use handicap strokes during a match.

Before those systems came into existence (the USGA first introduced an official handicap system in 1911), the golfer "receiving a half" would use those nine handicap strokes by employing them on every other hole. If the golfer used a handicap stroke on Hole 1, then he or she would also use one on 3, 5, 7 and so on. If the golfer chose to wait until the second hole, then they would get the following strokes on the fourth, sixth, eighth, and so on.

The expression "receiving a half" was always more of a British term than an American term. It had begun dying out by the 1930s, although it hung around for a while after that among old-timers before fading out of the game completely.

Well, not completely: The phrase "receiving a half" still lives on in those old golf books and magazines, mostly from the earliest decade of the 1900s. And now you know what it means.

More old golf terms:

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